Growing up in Wisconsin can be tough. I was an awkward child, standard level intelligence, poor. Poor was enough to isolate me in my school growing up where others had the coolest and latest Nikes, and I had whatever we had purchased off the sales rack at Woolworths.
This post isn’t about how I used to tie my shoelaces around my pants because they were too wide, it’s really about how I struggled socially for a long time, even through college and into my career. I never really had a tribe of individuals who I fell in with until I was older and met my oldest and dearest friend, when I was 16 going on 17.
(/imagine nostalgic music with 70 mm film reel…)
She and I met at a camp we both volunteered at and realized our shared love of french fries with mustard. Don’t knock it till you try it. From that point on, she was my person. We had another one who filled out our tribe, and we would discuss our angsty teenage lives over lattes at Starbucks (this was the 90’s…) on the weekends, and sing along to cd’s of They Might be Giants in her Chevy Cavalier. Those were the days.
Jenny was, for the first time in my life, a friend. Fast forward 24+ years, and she is still my person, and she always will be.
(/end nostalgic music and film)
There was a single mistake I made growing up, and also in my career, that have direct correlations to each other. Of course, I can look back now and say what it was specifically, and had I done this I would have been much more successful sooner. That’s not how it works though, is it, I got here eventually, and I love how I got here. It’s not about me voicing any type of regret over my life choices, I’m an avid fan of failing and learning (another blog post). Those screw ups happen for a reason, the purpose of me not learning is hopefully a lesson I can pass on to others right now.
The biggest lesson that I wish I would have recognized sooner?
Go where you’re wanted.
So often we are told to succeed in specific areas. To do well at a sport, academics, and beyond. As kids, and even as adults, we live by this incredible standard set for us by others, rather than taking a path that works for us, with our natural inclinations. This is not to diminish that we occasionally may need direction, a kick in the pants, but that all leads into the need to go where you’re wanted.
Going where you’re wanted is:
- Finding the mentor who wants to help you
- Finding a path that doesn’t resist you or you’re struggling too much with
- Taking that job that maybe isn’t the best right now but it is a stepping stone.
Think of this in terms of school, specifically college. As seniors we were told to apply to very specific colleges, and sometimes our parents wouldn’t pay for the college unless it was one they choose. As you heard in the last interview with Bridget, she went to community college, and only after friends encouraged her. She went where she was wanted, into something that she still draws on every day, years after moving on from interpreting.
Sometimes it’s not even college, we want to be near the energy of the cool people too, how often have we struggled to fit in because we wanted too much to be part of a group of people, who quite honestly, didn’t want us. We all have stories of rejection of some sort. The key to experiencing rejection, in life or career, is not avoiding it, but recognizing the opportunity to find out where we belong. Sometimes it is a single person. A single job. A single place.
Full disclosure: My favorite job ever was being a grocery store clerk. Loved it. It also taught me finance and cash handling experience, which eventually helped me get into business finance.
Going where you’re wanted isn’t always easy, sometimes it takes some work to find out where that is. Find your Jenny. Find your Bridget. Only you can determine who your Jenny is.